The Truth Behind Cannabis Law: The Hypocrisy of Big Pharma & the US Government
Did you know that Cannabis is one of the oldest agricultural crops known to mankind?
Its been used for thousand years by some of the worlds greatest civilizations. It was highly esteemed for its combination of medical and recreational properties.
Throughout the 18th century, cannabis was a primary source of income for American families, mostly as an agricultural product.
But something happened in the early 1900’s that changed the way we viewed cannabis for nearly a century.
What happened that made cannabis, a once respected and widely used plant, a controlled illicit substance?
In this article we discuss why cannabis was demonized for so long, how the pharmaceutical industry may have been involved, and where we’re going from here.
How Did Cannabis Become Illegal in the First Place?
You might be surprised to learn that the ban on cannabis resulted from the racial prejudices of just one man – Harry Anslinger, self-appointed director of the United States Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Anslinger was a prominent government official. When he came to power, he became obsessed with hispanic minorities in the US.
He disliked the fact that people of races other than his own were contributing to the country’s economy. He wanted to do something to stop them, but couldn’t manage it alone. He came up with a plan.
Here’s what he did.
Anslinger first tried to demonstrate the hispanic people as being savage, uneducated, lazy, and aggressive people using his prominent public position at the time.
Unfortunately for him he couldn’t find any living examples to prove his statements.
Moreover, cannabis, especially hemp, seemed to be Anslinger’s biggest pain in the neck – and for a good reason.
After all, Anslinger had direct connections with the petrochemical industry and hemp was one of the industries biggest competitors.
After closer investigation of the hispanic community, Anslinger learned that they shared one thing in common – they loved cannabis, a plant they called “marijuana”.
Now, here’s the keyword – marijuana.
This term was unknown to US citizens until the anti-cannabis propaganda first started. When Anslinger finally found some fertile soil to spread the idea on, he went full bore.
This resulted in a giant media crusade against cannabis with fear-mongering campaigns directly targeting the “marijuana” plant.
This is a topic for another article, so let’s compress it into a timeline for now.
Here’s an overhead view of the events that took place next:
1930: Anslinger Creates The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN)
Harry Anslinger created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and positioned himself at its head as the official commissioner.
As you already know – Anslinger had direct ties with major US petrochemical companies,and was able to convince them to launch a 5-year crusade against cannabis and everything associated with the plant.
It’s around this time that the once loved, and highly valuable cannabis plant was converted into the soul-ravenous marijuana.
1936: The Media Picks Up On The Campaign
By this time, anti-cannabis campaigns are gaining pace across newspapers, radio, and other media outlets.
Reefer Madness, a movie portraying cannabis smokers as addicts, rapists, and mindless monsters was released to the public to drive fear among the working-class citizens of the United States.
1937: The Marijuana Tax Act
President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Marijuana Tax Act, which essentially eradicates the cannabis and hemp industry.
The high tax placed on the crop caused farmers to quit growing hemp or risk bankruptcy.
Some farmers were able to keep turning a profit growing hemp despite these changes, but most failed and were forced to sell their homes or come up with a new plan for their farm.
1942: Hemp For Victory!
A strange, yet explainable turnaround happens during World War 2.
The government changes its stance on hemp completely due to the dire need the military had for textiles like ropes and garments.
Farmers are encouraged to cultivate the plant to support their military effort.
They even release a promotional video called “Hemp For Victory” where they claim that “American hemp will go on duty again”.
1970: The War On Drugs
The sweet kiss of death comes from President Richard Nixon, who declares an official “War on Drugs” and introduces the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Under this document, cannabis is categorized as a Schedule 1 drug, one that can be as dangerous as heroin and other hard drugs and has no medical use whatsoever.
1986: Mandatory Prison Sentences and Death Penalties For Kingpins
The Reagan administration brought some new changes after nearly 2 decades of inactivity.
With the The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, mandatory prison sentences for large scale cannabis distribution was implemented. They later brought in a law allowing the death penalty to be given to people considered “drug kingpins”.
Over the past 30 years we’ve seen a lot of changes to this mindset, and a lot of laws have started changing.
We’ll get into this more later on so keep reading.
The Impact of Cannabis Prohibition on the American People
How have these laws impacted the general public?
You might be be surprised.
Although more and more states are legalizing medical and recreational cannabis each year, there are still more arrests for cannabis-related crimes than all crimes put all together.
A lot of these “crimes” had more to do with racial prejudice and unjust politics than anything else.
However, the plant was illegal nonetheless.
Unfortunately, as long as cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, law enforcement can take action on any American holding cannabis. Even if it means ruining their future and costing US taxpayers billions.
Crime rates have gone through the roof.
Did you know that in 2014 alone, 700,993 people got arrested for cannabis?
That’s nearly one arrest every 45 seconds!
Here are two of the major impacts cannabis prohibition has had on American Society
1. It’s Extremely Expensive
Should Marijuana Be Illegal?
62% of the American people answered “No” to this question according to a Pew Research study done in the last quarter of 2018.
There’s a growing body of evidence supporting marijuana as a powerful medicinal plant, with an incredibly high level of safety. These benefits received almost no attention amid nearly a century of smear campaigning by the United States government.
But people are waking up.
Recreational cannabis laws are changing across the United States, as well as Canada and Europe.
In the majority of places across the world, people are still sent behind bars for cannabis possession– which is really a lose-lose situation for everyone.
Billions of Dollars in Taxpayer Money is Wasted On Prohibition Enforcement
The biggest problem with taxes in the US is that the money is used irresponsibly and extremely inefficiently.
This ay be a bit of an understatement.
Thus far, the US government spends an average of $3,000,000,000 per year enforcing cannabis prohibition.
Considering how many schools, hospitals, or roads could have been built if the government hadn’t kept cannabis illegal is a thought that keep many people awake at night.
This doesn’t even consider the fact that every inmate in the United States costs around $31,000 each year.
What a huge waste of financial resources!
2. Thousands of Patients Are Denied Useful Medicine
States that have medical marijuana programs allow people with certain conditions access to marijuana.
Conditions that have shown particular benefit from these laws includes:
- chronic pain
- HIV/AIDS symptoms
- Post-chemo nausea
- Autoimmune diseases
- Neurodegenerative disorders
All of these conditions have been proven be benefit from cannabis use.
We don’t even want to think about all those lives that could’ve been saved if the patients had been offered a safer alternative to pharmaceutical cocktails.
Many of these drugs work to mask the symptoms of disease instead of fighting their cause.
The Government Holds a Patent on Cannabinoids
According to the CSA categorization, cannabis is a Schedule I Drug, and as such, has a strong potential for abuse and offers no medical benefit.
Don’t you find it, a little strange that the United States government holds a patent on the active compounds in a plant that they consider to have “no medicinal value”?
Yes, fellow cannabis aficionados, this patent is a real thing.
You can check it under the signature number #6,630,507, which is titled “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants.”
Here’s what the patent says:
“Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment of prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and HIV dementia.
Non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention.”
Let us summarize this for you;
Long story short, the government claims that the whole cannabis flower doesn’t have medicinal value.
Some of the isolated molecules (cannabinoids) produced by the plant are patented for their ability to support the nervous system, and protect against free radical damage.
Both of these effects are highly relevant as a form of medicine.
It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?
Synthetic Cannabis-Based Drugs Have Been Legal Since 1985
Shortly after claiming that cannabis is a dangerous drug and has no medicinal value, the US government approved a synthetic form of THC, called Marinol.
It’s a drug used to treat patients suffering from cancer.
You may be wondering how a company can make a drug using the same molecule as THC as a medicine, while the plant that produces it is considered a criminal offense.
The answer comes down to money.
Money seeks power and power seeks money – it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a simple fact.
It’s easier to sell your products when you’re the only entity that’s allowed by the government to sell it, right?
This appears to be the case with Marinol, and the pharmaceutical company that makes it, Abbvie Inc.
Okay, since Marinol is still some form of cannabis – even though it’s synthetic – shouldn’t it produce the same effects as the plant itself?
Well, not really.
The main differences of Cannabis and Marinol includes:
- Cannabis is used to treat nausea, Marinol causes it
- Cannabis contains over 60 cannabinoids, Marinol contains just one
- Cannabis is high in antioxidant flavonoids, Marinol promotes oxidative damage
- Marinol has a long list of side effects, some severe, Cannabis only has a few
- Cannabis can be doses according to the individual, Marinol comes in just 3 dosages
Take a look at the table below for more comparison:
|THC,CBD, CBN, CBG, an 80+ other cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils||Ingredients||Only THC|
|Users can control the dosage themselves depending on their needs.||Dosage||2.5mg; 5mg; 10mg|
|Federally illegal, legalized in certain states||Legal Status||Legal, FDA Approved|
|$ – $$$||Price||$$$$|
|Domestic farmers||Manufacturer||AbbVie Inc.|
|Too much of cannabis high in THC can lead to drowsiness, confusion, and anxiety.||Side Effects||Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, and other negative psychological effects|
Since the 1970s, Marinol brought in more than $100 million in annual sales for AbbVie Inc.
In the meantime, the cannabis industry was almost completely devastated over the same period of time.
Other than a few mild side effects, cannabis is a relatively safe substance that can offer incredible benefit when used responsibly.
There are two varieties of cannabis: hemp, which is non-intoxicating, and marijuana, which produces the characteristic “high.”
Numerous studies have shown that marijuana causes far less harm to both the user and other people than legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco.
At the time of writing, alcohol and tobacco are legal almost everywhere, even though they have no medicinal value and can actually be dangerous to our health.
Roughly 113,000 people die each year in the United States alone as a result of pharmaceutical drug side effects.
In legal states, the sale of prescription drugs tend to decrease overtime, as more and more people are turning to cannabis for relief.
Thanks to the aforementioned anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, patients can successfully treat a number of serious conditions without putting their lives at risk with dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.
The main difference between hemp and marijuana is the THC content of the flower buds.
Unlike marijuana, hemp won’t make you feel high or stoned because it typically contains less than 0.3% THC.
On top of that, hemp is known to have over 25,000 other applications.
Here’s just a few of the uses that have cause public interest in hemp to skyrocket:
1. CBD As Medicine
CBD can be derived of both hemp and marijuana.
Hemp-derived CBD allows you to receive the therapeutic qualities of the cannabinoid without intoxicating side-effects.
CBD tinctures hold promising medical potential.
Studies indicate that CBD can aid patients in their struggles with conditions such as:
2. Hemp As Food
Hemp seeds are considered “superfoods” by many nutritional authorities, as they have an extremely rich nutritional profile.
Athletes and health-conscious consumers are starting to incorporate hemp seeds into their diet.
But it goes further than that,
Hemp seed oil comes with an optimal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids (3:1).
This has all kinds of benefits on the cardiovascular system, neurological system, immune system. and digestive system .
3. Hemp For Body Care
The aforementioned ratio of essential fatty acids makes hemp oil skin-friendly as well.
It also provides vitamins and key amino acids to the skin, helping it look vibrant and healthy.
Manufacturers are using it in hemp lotions, balms, muscle rubs, and other topical products conquer the beauty market.
4. Hemp In Clothing
Hemp fabric has outstanding durability. This is why the military came up with the “Hemp for victory” plan during world war II.
In fact, hemp is considered more durable than cotton and other common textiles, especially in the natural fiber sector.
Today, more and more eco-friendly brands have started to add hemp textiles to their clothing collections, including the high-end outdoor brand Patagonia, well known for their sustainability-focused philosophy.
Changing Times For Cannabis Prohibition
Times are starting to change.
Cannabis laws since the late 1980’s have started to turn around. As more information is published each year on the plant, public opinion has started to change significantly.
Anslinger would be turning in his grave.
Here are some updates.
1998: Medical Cannabis Recognized
Proposition 215 in California marked the start of cannabis’ turnaround in the United States.
This law allowed the use of medical marijuana in the state. It was voted in by a margin of 5,382,915 votes in favor (55%) and 4,301,960 against (44.4%).
This was the beginning of the end for cannabis prohibition in the country.
2012: Legalization Begins
Fast forward 14 years and we’re now at the next stage of development. Colorado and Washington become the first US states to legalize the plant in 75 years.
Since this time, 6 more states have legalized, as well as our Canadian neighbors to the North.
Despite these advances, cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, and in most US states.
Why is Cannabis Still Illegal?
In short, it’s all politics.
Let me explain.
Alcohol companies, Big Pharma and Police Unions For Profit Prisons, spend around $45 million on lobbying for their interests. Much of this interest is lobbying against marijuana and hemp.
Pro-Cannabis companies, on the other hand spend just $1.5 million on lobbying. This is 30-40 times less than their anti-cannabis counterparts.
There’s also another reason.
Research indicates that cannabinoids found in the cannabis plants have huge medicinal potential and is a relatively safe recreational substance.
Potential Medical Benefits of Cannabis
Here are just a few conditions that cannabis has been found to benefit:
In low and moderate doses, THC can reduce anxiety .
CBD comes with similar qualities, but without the psychoactive effects.
It works primarily by allowing our nervous system to communicate within itself more effectively. This offers numerous benefits throughout the body because nearly all organ systems rely on effective communication with the brain.
This improves what we would call “homeostasis”, which is a fancy word that means balance.
A major part of this balance is to turn down hyperactivity during anxious states.
Cannabinoids are proving to be a novel solution for a wide range of human epileptic disorders.
Both CBD and THC have been found to reduce the frequency of seizures in both epileptic children and adults..
Arthritis involves low grade inflammation, and a gradual breakdown of collagen in the joint tissue. The key treatment aims for this condition is to address the underlying inflammatory states.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD make it beneficial in the treatment of arthritis .
Clinical trials have shown that CBD treatment can significantly reduce the development of type 2 diabetes .
What Does The Future Look Like For Cannabis?
With the current state of affairs – Canada legalizing marijuana nationwide and more US states loosening their restraints on cannabis – the herb is likely to regain its noble reputation.
The cannabis market is a multi-billion-dollar industry right now, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
With scientists going all-in into the research on cannabinoids and more companies trying to get their fair share of the cannabis-cake, it’s just a matter of time until the stigma is finally defeated.
Let’s hope that the world won’t have to deal with another Harry Anslinger – we believe that Jeff Sessions and his anti-cannabis crusade remnants are the last breath of the old-world Reefer Madness.
- Russo, Ethan B. “Cannabinoids in the Management of Difficult to Treat Pain.” Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 4.1 (2008): 245–259. Print.
- Nagarkatti, Prakash et al. “Cannabinoids as Novel Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.” Future medicinal chemistry 1.7 (2009): 1333–1349. PMC. Web. 10 Oct. 2018.
- Perucca, Emilio. “Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?” Journal of Epilepsy Research 7.2 (2017): 61–76. PMC. Web. 10 Oct. 2018.
- Blessing, Esther M. et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics 12.4 (2015): 825–836. PMC. Web. 10 Oct. 2018.
- Śledziński, Paweł et al. “The Current State and Future Perspectives of Cannabinoids in Cancer Biology.” Cancer Medicine 7.3 (2018): 765–775. PMC. Web. 10 Oct. 2018.
- Axelrod, J., & Speech, N. P. Cannabinoids As Neuroprotectants.
- Ligresti, A., Moriello, A. S., Starowicz, K., Matias, I., Pisanti, S., De Petrocellis, L., … & Di Marzo, V. (2006). Antitumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 318(3), 1375-1387.
- Deferne, J. L., & Pate, D. W. (1996). Hemp seed oil: A source of valuable essential fatty acids. J. Int. Hemp Assoc, 3(1), 4-7.
- Zuardi, A. W., Shirakawa, I., Finkelfarb, E., & Karniol, I. G. (1982). Action of cannabidiol on the anxiety and other effects produced by Δ 9-THC in normal subjects. Psychopharmacology, 76(3), 245-250.
- Malfait, A. M., Gallily, R., Sumariwalla, P. F., Malik, A. S., Andreakos, E., Mechoulam, R., & Feldmann, M. (2000). The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 97(17), 9561-9566.
- El-Remessy, A. B., Al-Shabrawey, M., Khalifa, Y., Tsai, N. T., Caldwell, R. B., & Liou, G. I. (2006). Neuroprotective and blood-retinal barrier-preserving effects of cannabidiol in experimental diabetes. The American journal of pathology, 168(1), 235-244.
- Devinsky, O., Cilio, M. R., Cross, H., Fernandez‐Ruiz, J., French, J., Hill, C., … & Martinez‐Orgado, J. (2014). Cannabidiol: pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia, 55(6), 791-802.